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Spectroscopy

Artist's concept of HAT-P-11b crossing in front of its star (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In a display of interstellar teamwork, NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes have discovered clear skies and water vapor in the atmosphere of a Neptune-sized planet orbiting a star 120 light years from Earth. According to the space agency, this may not only provide insights into the formation of giant exoplanets, but also act as a new tool for detecting water on Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.  Read More

RemScan puts a self-contained soil analyzer in your hand (Photo: ZilteK)

Contamination of soil from petroleum spills is an ongoing problem that threatens to adversely affect the environment and the health of the people in it, so rapid testing of sites is a pressing issue. However, with laboratory samples and results requiring at least a number of days turn around, particularly in remote locations, rapid analysis is not usually possible. RemScan is a self-contained, hand-held hydrocarbon contamination testing device designed to address this problem. Recently released on the US market, the device is capable of testing many hundred samples a day, providing data on the spot, within seconds, and completely without the need of a laboratory.  Read More

Artist's impressionof Beta Pictoris b

According to NASA, 1,703 planets orbiting 1,033 stars have been found so far, but very little is known about these planets beyond some deductions based on their orbits. That veil is lifting though, as demonstrated by Dutch astronomers who have for the first time measured the length of an exoplanet’s day. Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile’s Atacama desert, the team has learned that the young extrasolar gas giant Beta Pictoris b has an eight-hour day and spins faster than any planet in the Solar System.  Read More

The SCiO Pocket Molecular Sensor

Wondering how nutritious that food is, if that plant needs water, or just what that misplaced pill is? Well, the makers of SCiO claim that their device is able to tell you all of those things, plus a lot more. To use it, you just scan the item in question for one or two seconds, then check the readout on a Bluetooth 4.0-linked smartphone.  Read More

A link found between breathing patterns and altitude sickness symptoms could lead to a tre...

Headaches, nausea, weakness and dizziness, combined with a feeling that you just can’t get enough oxygen with each breath are just some of the signs of altitude sickness. Researchers have now found a link between the abnormal breathing patterns experienced while sleeping at altitude and the symptoms of altitude sickness, particularly headaches. The finding suggests that finding a way to breath normally while sleeping could provide a way to combat such symptoms.  Read More

Ball lightning appears at the impact point of a lightning strike, and its emission spectru...

A scientific team in China fortuitously recorded the first optical spectrum of an example of ball lightning. The ball lightning, which was accompanied by a cloud to ground lightning strike, appears to have consisted at least partially of vaporized soil from the location of the strike. While ball lightning may result from a variety of sources, this observation provides considerable evidence that the vaporized silicon explanation is valid, although possibly not unique.  Read More

An artist's rendition of the newly-discovered z8-GND-5296 galaxy (Image: UCR/NASA)

Astronomers at UC Riverside have combined observations from space and ground telescopes to discover what they say is the oldest known galaxy with a precisely measured distance, seen as it was just 700 million years after the Big Bang.  Read More

Scientists have discovered an easier new way of detecting bogus rare stamps  (Image: Shutt...

Here’s good news for all you philatelists out there – scientists have discovered an easier new way of detecting counterfeit rare stamps. Unlike some existing methods, it doesn’t require the destruction of any part of the stamp, and can be done quickly by anyone who has access to the necessary equipment.  Read More

Project 1640 image of the four exoplanets orbiting HR 8977. The image has been enhanced fo...

While the number of exoplanets so far identified is steadily marching towards the 1000 mark, fewer than twenty have been discovered in the course of direct observation by astronomical telescopes. Four of them (HR 8977 b,c,d,and e) circle an unprepossessing A5 star called HR 8977, which lies about 130 light-years distant from Earth. Thanks to the little-known astrophysics research arm of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), we now have the ability to examine the makeup of their atmospheres by taking simultaneous spectrographs of all four planets.  Read More

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